One Of The Oldest European Cities Is Full Of Historic Charm And So Much To Do

If you'd like to visit one of the oldest cities in Europe, you can't go wrong with Dordrecht, Netherlands. A picturesque blend of Amsterdam's quirky cityscape and Italy's iconic waterway city of Venice, Dordrecht is a culmination of old and new welded together on a beautiful Medieval-style canvas. Situated among a maze of gently flowing canals in South Holland, Dordrecht is the oldest city in Holland province and a tangible memory of the Dutch Golden Age. The city was once the largest exchange hub within the Netherlands, with merchants dabbling in timber, grain, and wine trades. The city dances to the beat of its 13th-century history, with nearly 1,000 monuments acting as time machines into the city's past. Many of its iconic memorials have been fashioned into modern restaurants, cafes, and museums.

Just over an hour train ride from Amsterdam, Dordrecht contains several elements reminiscent of its Dutch neighbor, with fewer bustling crowds and toned-down energy. Hip, cozy coffee houses, flowing canals, and intricate monuments with exquisite facades give Dordrecht its European charm. Whimsical art murals are splattered throughout the city streets, adding cheerful pops of color. Its maze of canals is the center of attention in Dordrecht, connecting neighborhoods and plazas. Once only accessible by boat, the canals still connect residents to the nearby city of Rotterdam.

Spend an idyllic day in Dordrecht

Dordrecht may be small in size, but you would never guess it by its exuberant personality. Suffice it to say, you'll never be bored in Dordrecht. This medieval European town is an interactive museum, with historical landmarks dotting nearly every street. Grote Kerk is the largest church in the city and features a beautiful Brabant Gothic exterior, housing a carillon featuring 67 bells that fills the city with its sweet sound. Its leaning tower is attributed to the softness and lack of stability of the ground beneath it. Regardless of its slightly lopsided appearance, the tower grants visitors incredible views from above. Just a few blocks away, Voorstraat is one of the most fashionable and coveted hot spots. For the oldest street in Dordrecht, it's a buzzing city square with an impressive collection of local boutiques, cafes, and galleries.

Many of Dordrecht's establishments aren't limited to a single trade. Instead, small-business owners prefer to dabble in a montage of crafts, throwing in a little of this and that wherever possible. The result is a flourishing scene of businesses that operate simultaneously as cafes, boutiques, and event companies. Bluebirds in the Backyard is one of Dordrecht's best examples of this. Housed under the roof of Huis Roodenburch, this community center is a patchwork of shops, event spaces, a wool shop, and a trendy restaurant, fondly referred to as the Lunchroom. 

A European city pioneering a sustainable lifestyle

Dordrecht places a large emphasis on shaping a society that supports a sustainable blue-green vision. As its urban development expands, Dordrecht is dedicated to preserving its surrounding green spaces while creating eco-friendly opportunities for housing, education, and public transportation. 

The hospitality industry is an evident piece of Dordrecht's sustainability scene. Several cafes and dining outposts embrace vegan-friendly menus, reducing the city's carbon footprint and focusing on more sustainable diets. Coffeelicious is an adorable vegan-friendly cafe situated along the canals. This breakfast and lunchroom's founding principle is rooted in providing sustainably sourced foods for their customers while serving their community with a smile.

Few hotels possess the charm and cultural heritage of the ones in Dordrecht. Villa Augustus, a water tower-turned-hotel, is one of the city's most iconic destinations to spend the night, and a sustainable centerpiece in the city. Nearly every inch of the property has been renovated into functional gathering spots and eateries to complement their guests. The plot of land where the old water basin stood is now a flourishing Italian-style garden and orchard. The bountiful harvest of fruits and vegetables translates into a delightful collection of seasonal dishes at the hotel restaurant. Conveniently located on the property, the Villa Augustus Market is a constant, vibrant hub of activity. Artisan merchants selling everything from freshly baked sourdough, olive oils, jams, antipasti, books, and more create a wholesome community on the grounds of Villa Augustus.